by Ashley Garrett
Brendan Ward, 22, is one of 79 undergraduate and graduate students handpicked by the Dow Jones News Fund to participate in its ongoing prestigious paid internship program. This year, after receiving more than 779 applications last fall, the News Fund has continued its tradition of placing student reporters at top news organizations around the country.
Ward, an alumnus of Georgia Southern University, will join nine other young journalists at New York University on June 3 for the DJNF Business Reporting Program’s one-week summer residency. He will then join the staff at the “Atlanta Business Chronicle” as an intern for the summer.
Although the DJNF program will provide him with his first major opportunity to delve into business reporting, Ward said his love for journalism and current events began years ago. From growing up watching programs like “The Daily Show” and “Meet the Press,” to admiring heavyweight journalists like Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, Ward said he knew early on in his college career that he wanted to pursue reporting.
A New Jersey native, Ward moved to McDonough, Georgia, about seven years ago and enrolled in Georgia Southern in 2015. Before graduating this spring with a major in multimedia journalism and minor in business, he was a staff member at his university’s student newspaper, “The George-Anne,” for over two years. During his time at the paper, he served as both a reporter and coverage/daily managing editor, covering a variety of topics and beats from politics to crime to sports.
“I went into Georgia Southern as a journalism major and then joined the school paper my sophomore year, and from there my love for journalism grew,” Ward said. “I enjoyed it, and I’ve learned a lot.”
Ward credited his time at “The George-Anne” with helping him grow the “thick skin” often necessary for covering sensitive topics and dealing with sources. Additionally, he said the experience offered the opportunity to learn how to meet strict deadlines, write in-depth investigative pieces and work with fellow student journalists.
“Overall, I appreciate every second of my time at ‘The George-Anne,’ even if some days and weeks were stressful,” Ward said. “I truly do not believe I would be the journalist I am today without that experience.”
David Simpson, director of student media at Georgia Southern, worked closely with Ward at “The George-Anne” from his initial reporter training in fall 2016 to his tenure as managing editor. He pointed to Ward’s persistence in reporting and willingness to expose the truth as some his strongest assets as a journalist.
“Brendan’s one of those energetic news reporters — loves to cover news, loves to find stories,” Simpson said. “He’s not afraid to dig in and not afraid of controversial topics.”
Simpson said Ward’s resolve has served him well in a field where fear of conflict can act as a roadblock to success.
“[Confrontation] is a dealbreaker for some people going into journalism,” he said. “When they find out that people may get upset at them — not everyone can handle that. [Ward] got over that. He’s been yelled at, hung up on and all those wonderful things that happen, and he has stayed with it.”
In addition to his work at “The George-Anne,” Ward also interned at the “Statesboro Herald” from January to May of this year. The position helped him leap into covering community news and live events at a local level, he said.
“My time at the ‘Statesboro Herald’ also gave me experience with small community journalism,” Ward said. “I got to see the impact my reporting had on the community and how excited community members were when they saw that the paper had sent a reporter to cover it.”
Now, Ward said he is looking forward to working closely with journalism professors at NYU during his residency before returning home for his assignment at the “Atlanta Business Chronicle” — his first position at a major professional news publication.
“It’s nice to kind of see the bigger side of [reporting],” he said. “I’m just excited to learn from the ‘Atlanta Business Chronicle’ staff and honestly just improve my writing. Even though I graduated, we’re still all learning.”